Title: The Jewel of St. Petersburg
Author: Kate Furnivall
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
The year is 1910 and Valentina Ivanova is the daughter of a wealthy Russian noble close to the czar. She is a gifted piano player and attracts the attention of many, which delights her parents as they try to arrange her marriage. Valentina, though, has a mind of her own and is determined to find love and contribute to society. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks are slowly growing stronger and pose a threat to everything Valentina’s family holds dear.
I’d heard good things about The Jewel of St. Petersburg, so I was excited to pick it up and read it. The time period, just a few years before the Russian Revolution, is a fascinating one, and I’ve always been interested in Russian history. Therefore, I was disappointed to find that this book didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped.
The Jewel of St. Petersburg is a solidly written and researched book. I was right in my initial hopes about the setting – the time period was wonderful. Furnivall did an amazing job capturing the tension of the time. There is a sense of foreboding through the entire novel, as the reader knows what will eventually happen. It’s clear why there is such unrest – the reader can see the opulence and luxury of Valentina’s lifestyle, versus the poverty and despair of the Russian peasants’. Furnivall also wonderfully evokes a feeling of suspicion. It’s hard to know who you can trust at such difficult times. It was an amazing setting for a novel, and Furnivall really took advantage of it.
The problem I had with The Jewel of St. Petersburg was with Valentina. For some reason, I wasn’t really invested in her story. I felt like she yo-yo’d back and forth between the life she had and the one she wanted and couldn’t decide which meant more – her family or the man she loved. I just wanted her to make a decision and go with it, rather than leading both sides on! Additionally, I just couldn’t sympathize with her for some reason. Part of this might be because this book is apparently part of a series. It’s a prequel to Furnivall’s The Russian Concubine, which I didn’t know before picking it up. Perhaps I missed something with regards to Valentina, which could be why she didn’t appeal to me.
While The Jewel of St. Petersburg was a solid read, it wasn’t one I was clamoring to get back to after I put it down. Because I didn’t really sympathize with the main character, I didn’t really feel a need to push ahead with it. It’s a shame because the time period is so fascinating. I should also add that every single other review I’ve read of this book has been positive, so it might just be that I wasn’t in the mood for the book when I was reading it. Whether it’s because of that or the fact that it’s part of a series, while I appreciated the setting and time period of The Jewel of St. Petersburg, it wasn’t a perfect fit for me.